SEATTLE — What’s impressed Washington offensive coordinator Tim Lappano most about Huskies quarterback Jake Locker is the redshirt freshman’s ability to handle adversity and learn from mistakes.
Locker should expect more chances to deal with trouble today.
No. 10 Ohio State will bring the nation’s top-ranked defense into Husky Stadium, which is expected to be sold out for the first time in four years. Against the Buckeyes, who have lost just once in the last 22 games, Huskies fan will find out just how far resurgent Washington has come.
“This is huge,” Washington senior linebacker Dan Howell said of the Buckeyes’ first trip to Seattle since 1994. “You’re getting the best coming to your stadium. This opportunity doesn’t come by very often.”
Ohio State is looking for improvement after lackluster wins against Youngstown State and Akron and with Big Ten play a week away.
Washington is trying to return to national prominence after years of futility and turmoil.
“The time is now,” said senior cornerback Roy Lewis, the Pac-10 defensive player of the week.
The Huskies, behind Locker running the spread offense plus a surprisingly stout defense, are 2-0 for the first time since 2001. Last week’s 24-10 win over Boise State was their first win over a ranked team since Tyrone Willingham arrived in 2005.
“This is their saving game,” Ohio State center Jim Cordle said. “This is a game that they can all of a sudden be on a pedestal nationally. They can show who they are.”
Ohio State — led by linebacker James Laurinaitis, the Nagurski Award winner as the top defensive player in the country last season — has allowed two field goals and a safety through two games, the team’s fewest points allowed through two weeks since 1996.
“I think AP voters and coaches will look at this game and say, ‘Is this team for real?’” Ohio State defensive tackle Doug Worthington said of Washington.
“It’s a statement game for both teams. Washington is back on track, with coach Willingham. This is a huge game for both teams, both programs — both conferences even.”
The Buckeyes’ offense, with quarterback Todd Boeckman replacing Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, had five turnovers last week in a 20-2 win over Akron. Chris “Beanie” Wells had a career-high 143 yards rushing last week — but just 46, on 16 carries, against Youngstown State.
Washington has been gushing over Wells’ combination of speed and power.
“You don’t look at those two games as the true indicator of their offensive skill,” Willingham said. “You’ve got a back who is darn, darn good.”
Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel has been saying “we’re a young team” almost as much as he wears a sweater vest. Only 10 starters are back from last season’s team.
“We’re kind of a work in progress, more so on offense,” Tressel said.
Tressel said Boeckman, a junior who was the No. 3 QB last season, is still raw.
Boeckman has never played a big road game. Today, Washington hopes Husky Stadium is rocking the way it used to when Don James was coaching Rose Bowl teams.
“He may have seen environments that were exciting and loud — like at Penn State and Michigan. But that was while standing on the sidelines in a ball cap, signaling plays,” Tressel said.
“Quite frankly, he and we both need it.”
This week, Ohio State brought in former coach Earle Bruce to talk to the team. In 1986, he led the Buckeyes — then also ranked 10th — into Seattle. They got clobbered 40-7. Bruce warned these Buckeyes about the environment at Husky Stadium, how the steel, cantilevered roofs that shield each upper deck from rain act as megaphones that funnel noise onto the field.
“I’m not saying it’s like a Washington, but going to Texas last year also helped us to see the different atmosphere and how crazy it can be,” Worthington said.
WHO: No. 10 Ohio State at Washington
TIME: 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Husky Stadium, Seattle
TV/RADIO: ESPN; WEOL 930-AM, WKNR 850-AM
What’s brewing today with the Ohio State Buckeyes …
BUCKEYE BUZZ: Earle Bruce, the Buckeyes head coach from 1979 to 1987, once said that Washington was one of the two or three toughest places to play a game. The fans are wild, the Huskies (at least in those days) were always talented and it was never easy for a Big Ten team to make that long trip and then prepare for a game.
To counteract that lopsided home-field advantage, several people who have played or coached at Husky Stadium were called in to speak to the Buckeyes.
Bruce gave one of his usual impassioned speeches about not letting the crowd distract you. John Cooper, who coached Ohio State there in 1994, also talked. Jeff Uhlenhake, a former Ohio State player who currently helps with the team, along with ex-Buckeyes linebacker Chris Spielman, also met with the players.
Ohio State won at Washington in 1957, 1965 and 1969. Cooper and the Buckeyes lost 25-16 in ’94 and Bruce’s 10-3 team in 1986 was pounded 40-7 in the Great Northwest. That team did bounce back from an 0-2 start to win its next nine games.
TOURISTS FOR A DAY: The Buckeyes had a casual day in Seattle after arriving on Thursday afternoon. They went to the Pike Place Market area on Friday for lunch. No one was hit by a flying fish — the merchants are known to toss fish back and forth while unloading them on the dock and in the storefronts. Some took a quick side trip to the Space Needle downtown.
It’s all about the experience of getting to know a place that few of the players have visited.
“They’ll look back and tell their kids, ‘Oh, yeah. Shoot, I’ve been to Seattle. In fact, I’ll take you to a good restaurant,”‘ Tressel said. “That’s the fun of it.”
GETTING NO KICKS: Aaron Pettrey, the placekicker all last year, still is sidelined with a muscle pull in his kicking leg. He did not travel with the team to Seattle. Andrew Good, a walk-on junior from Youngstown, is Ryan Pretorius’ backup for the game.
STILL WAITING: Jermale Hines, a LB in this year’s freshman recruit class who was a Cleveland Glenville Tarblooder, is still awaiting word from Ohio State and the NCAA about whether he can enroll in classes. An undisclosed question about his academic records at Glenville has prevented him from enrolling and practicing with the team. The coaching staff expects him to join the team, but still hasn’t gotten confirmation of that.
EVERYBODY’S IN COACH: Tressel was asked who gets the first-class seats on the team plane to Seattle: “I don’t think we have any. You’ve never seen the planes we take, eh?”